SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD Travel Backup Process
Photo Gear,  Travel

A Travel Photographer’s Guide to Backing Up Your Photographs on Long Trips, and Short ones too

Taking a journey to faraway places and capturing unforgettable memories and stunning views with your camera is every travel photographer’s dream. But amid the excitement of exploring new territories, the concern of losing those special moments you’ve captured is always there. That’s why having a good backup plan is important to ensure your photos are safe and sound.

For many years, I’ve been using a backup strategy where every night I copy my SD cards to an external drive then turn the SD over in the case and don’t use that card for the remainder of the trip. This approach has every photograph from the trip stored in two locations until I return home from my travels.

As I’ve started to take longer photography trips, this process starts to break down. Photographing birds and wildlife with multiple camera bodies for multiple weeks, can add up to quite a few SD cards to purchase and bring with you on the trip.

Recently, I’ve been using a new back up process for my photography. This process has a higher initial cost ,but is cheaper in the long run and speeds up my upload process when I return home.

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD Measurements
SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD Measurements

Photo Back Up Process for Long Photography Trips

The new back up process involves using 2 SanDisk Extreme Portable SSDs for double back up, and I now reuse my SD cards during the trip. These drives are fast, tiny, light and rugged. The storage space runs from 500GB to 4TB. They can get a little pricey for the larger storage models, so keep an eye out for sales.

I decided on the 4TB SanDisk model as I will be going on multiple week photography trips for birds and wildlife this year, and I’d rather not be caught short of storage space. You’ll want to choose a storage size based on the length of the trips, how many photos you anticipate taking, and the size of the photographs from your camera.

I use my 14” M1 MacBook Pro to back up my photos to both drives each night. These drives come with a USB-C port and the files copy to the drives very quickly. The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSDs come with a USB-C cable and a USB-C to USB-A adapter in case your laptop does not have 2 USB-C ports.

SanDisk SSD iPad Configuration with USB Hub
SanDisk SSD iPad Configuration with USB Hub

Will this Back Up Process Work with an iPad?

If you are using an iPad for your travels instead of a laptop, you want to get a USB-C Hub with a card reader, and 2 additional USB-C or USB-A ports. Note: make sure your iPad has a USB-C port. Link

Use the Files app on the iPad to Copy/Paste the photos from your SD card to the SanDisk SSD, and then from one SanDisk SSD to the second one. I used a USB Hub with USB-A ports and this was much slower than using my MacBook Pro, but the back up process still worked with the iPad.

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD Case
SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD Case

A Tip on Cases for the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

I decided that I wanted to house my SanDisk SSD in hard cases to protect them during my travels. The case also has netting on the left hand side for the USB-C cable and the USB-C to USB-A adapter. I found these cases on Temu for $3.95, less than ½ the price of Amazon.

Advantages of Using the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD for Travel Backup

  • Very light and small, fits easily in your carry on luggage
  • Scalable storage solution for long trips
  • Fast read write speed. It speeds up the upload time to my iMac when I return home

Disadvantage of Using the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD for Travel Backup

  • Cost. If you opt for the 4TB models, they are priced at $269 on Amazon right now. However, this may also be cheaper than buying a lot of large, fast SD cards.

Related Posts

How to Back Up, View, and Edit your Camera’s RAW files using the iPad while Traveling
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Capturing Nature and Architecture Through Photography in Dry Tortugas National Park

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8 Comments

  • Juan Guerrero

    I currently use several high capacity SD slower cards (USH-I) and use the camera file management to copy the fast (and expensive) camera SD files to the slow ones.
    It’s not very expensive and specially it doesn’t take space and weight.

  • Adrian Smith

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for the article.

    I had started setting up something similar but I got spooked by the reports of high failure rates on Sandisk Extreme drives (eg https://www.tomshardware.com/news/sandisk-extreme-pro-failures-are-due-to-design-flaw; but a quick google will show a lot more).

    I usually take these sort of reports with a grain of salt but this seems more concerning than normal.

    One suggestion I’ve made is the past is to buy two different (brand) drives for the backups. That way if there is a design flaw it is less likely to take out both drives)

    • Martin Belan

      Thanks for sharing Adrian. So far, no problems with the SanDisk SSDs. I’ll post an update if I encounter issues. The SanDisk SSDs on Amazon have the updated firmware.

  • Chris Mutlow

    This approach also works really well with the iPhone 15 pro with fast usb-c and saves having to carry an iPad / Laptop if you want to go minimalist.

    Also works on lightning devices with the right adapter or the iPhone 15 and a usb-c hub but very slow copying.

    I’m using a Kingston Nucleum usb-c hub and a Samsung Shield T7 4Tb SSD which runs very sweetly, and are robust

  • Ian

    Martin

    Hi, great article, thank you.

    Can I ask how you manage the risk of theft, especially whilst travelling?

    Two SSD’s in the one back pack type scenarios.

    Have you considered uploading whilst away?

    Regards

    • Martin Belan

      Hi Ian,

      Thanks! I usually travel with two carry ons and can put one drive in each. I haven’t tried uploading to the cloud while away. Wonder how that would work with hotel wifi speeds. Have you tried that?

      Martin

      • Ian

        Hi Martin,

        Indirectly, yes. I used my iPad as a storage device, not particularly for the Photos app or Lightroom Mobile, though I did import them to Lightroom Mobile and at one point I had free WiFi so some did upload.

        Rotating SD cards and not deleting them until home has been my go to method for years. Leaving them in the room safe and not carrying them around unnecessarily.

        Uploading from any device during any photography trip will always be a challenge though I imagine professional photographers can pay for high bandwidth and cover it in their client fees.

        Multiple copies on different devices has to be the way.

        Ian

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